Arts & Events

AROUND & ABOUT FILM: Raul Ruiz's 'Night Across the Street' & Bahram Beyzaie's 'Downpour'—San Francisco Film Festival at the PFA; Film & Video at the East Bay Media Center

By Ken Bullock
Friday May 03, 2013 - 07:37:00 AM

—Raul Ruiz's films, such as 'Three Crowns of the Sailor,' 'On Top of the Whale,' 'Time Regained' (from Proust's last novel) made big splashes during the 80s & 90s at the San Francisco International Film Festival & the Pacific Film Archive. The filmmaker himself appeared at the PFA & at the 1997 SF Film Festival. 

Ruiz died not quite two years ago ... A late masterpiece, 'Mysteries of Lisbon,' had just played at the Film Festival & was then distributed nationally, playing in Berkeley & at the PFA's memorial retrospective of some of Salvador Allende's one-time film advisor's roughly 120 films. 

But it's only now that his final movie, 'Night Across the Street,' adapting stories by Chilean writer Hernan del Solar (& a salute to Jean Giono) to rework some old themes & motifs that run through films, novels & plays Ruiz produced so prolifically throughout his 50 year artistic career, is being screened here: at the PFA Saturday at 6 as part of the Film Festival & on July 11 at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. 

By turns fantastic & meditative, humorous & hair-raising, 'Night Across the Street' brings to the fore Ruiz's dreamlike stories, his trenchant humor & irony ("My work isn't fiction ... but about fiction"), his extraordinary direction of actors & his command of & constant innovation in the structures & techniques of narrative & of the medium of cinema itself. 

—Bahram Beyzaie's 1979 play 'The Death of Yazgerd' (which he made into a film in 1983) played in 2004 at the Ashby Stage, a joint production of Darvag Theatre Company & Shotgun Players. I thought then & think now that it's the finest play by a living playwright I've ever reviewed. 

Beyzaie's importance to Iranian performing arts can't be exaggerated. I was fortunate to interview him a year ago, after the success of the production, near Stanford where he's taught for several years, of his shadowplay-epic poem 'Jana & Baladoor.' Every night was sold out, Iranians flocking from up & down the West Coast—& from farther afield—to celebrate the first Persian shadowplay—a native form—in 600 years. 

His scholarship into native Iranian modes of performance, begun in the 1960s, is still considered fundamental, groundbreaking. His combining of those modes with other Asian forms & techniques, as well as select European influences, was a watershed in the creation of an Iranian national theater movement. And as a teacher, he guided a whole generation & more who became performers, directors, designers, technicians, producers—all over the world. 

Beyzaie was also a key contributing filmmaker to the Iranian New Wave of the 60s-70s, along with others, of whom Abbas Kiarostami is the most famous. His first film—a restored version of the only surviving print—'Downpour' will be screened Sunday at 3:20 at the PFA as part of the Film Festival. Asked to describe the style in which he rendered the story of a teacher sent to a conservative area & his relationship with a woman there, Beyzaie said in a recent interview: "Poetic maybe. A poem of daily life ... You can find metaphors in other countries' artistic languages as well, but may be the core of Iranian artistic expression." —from ( ... ) 

Pacific Film Archive 2575 Bancroft, between College & Telegrah, on the UC campus $13-$15 (Festival prices) 

—The East Bay Media Center is launching a series of weekend screenings on weekend nights in May in their new performance space, starting this Friday & Saturday at 7:45: 'What If Cannabis Cured Cancer?'—Len Richmond's film, narrated by Peter Coyote. $7. In coming weeks, the Himalayan Film Festival, May 18-19, will be a highlight. 1939 Addison (between Milvia & MLK) 843-3699.